Installing KiCAD on Mac OS X

December 8, 2011

in Tinkering

KiCAD logo

Recently I got more and more fed up by EAGLE CAD. It is a good EDA tool. But the restrictions are really starting to bother me. I need to do more 4 layer boards. Perhaps bigger boards. And I do not want to invest some thousand Euros just to be able to design bigger boards or more layers on the PCB. And since I am unhappy with my libraries anyway it was a good point to try out a new tool.

As you may remember the Mac OS X support in KiCAD is experimental. And from my first impression: Yes it is.Getting it up and running is a major task by itself. So I am writing down my experiences. Perhaps this helps anybody.

Downloading KiCAD

This is the easiest part. I went to the KiCAD wiki download section and checked the experimental builds. I settled for the builds by Brokentoaster since they got some fine installation package for Mac OS X. Just for the records: The version number while doing this was v3052 as the latest stable build. That’s what I grabbed.

Installing KiCAD

After the installation I checked what it installed – and was not very pleased. It just created an Folder /Applications/kicad/ with some demo files in it. No binary, no documentation, no nothing. I tried the second download link on broken toaster for the .tgz of the same build. And there it was. The application folder by the installation routine still belonged to my user. Not as I expected it to be, but very handy to add the files from the .tgz archive. Finally a complete installation. Starting KiCAD was easy and it worked out of the box. I was a bit puzzled that the first project was created in the Application directory. But nothing a new project in another location could fix. Fine!

But running eeschma showed me that I was not nearly there. All necessary libraries where missing. A good sign that the installation was not complete. After some googling I found an file INSTALL.txt. in /Applications/Kicad/share/doc/kicad/INSTALL.txt. It’s content completely solved the mystery:

The parts of KiCad
KiCad consists of 3 packages:

kicad         - KiCad programs and core files.
kicad-doc     - Documentation and interactive help (optional package).
kicad-library - KiCad schematic, pcb & 3D-model libraries (optional package).

Obviously the package for Mac OS X contains only the KiCAD program and core files. But neither the documentation nor the essential libraries – hence the error messages. Some lines below there was some super secret hint where to put the libraries and documentation:

Mac OS X KiCad tree
System wide files
 /Library/Application Support/kicad/demos
 /Library/Application Support/kicad/internat
 /Library/Application Support/kicad/library
 /Library/Application Support/kicad/modules
 /Library/Application Support/kicad/modules/packages3d
User files can be the same as the system wide files but only inside the users home directory.
$HOME/Library/Application Support/kicad
 These paths are hardcoded into KiCad, if you put them somewhere else KiCad will not find them when a new
 project is created.

So back to the download page and get a complete Linux package to extract the documentation. I went for the complete Ubuntu installation. It was nearly the same version and had ‘complete’ on the cover. Downloading and unzipping it it showed me a beautiful Linux file tree with all the needed files. Since I am the only person on this computer using KiCAD I created ~/Library/Application Support/kicad and copied the directories ‘demos‘, ‘internat‘, ‘library‘ and ‘modules‘.

The Result

After copying all the necessary files in all the necessary locations gave me complete and functional KiCAD installation. There are some graphics glitches in the schematic editor. But I hope that those are gone in one of the next versions.

So off to check the tutorial to do something useful with my fresh installation!

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

David December 8, 2011 at 17:01

How are your experiences with performance? I find KiCAD under Mac OS X unusably slow (especially the scrolling/zooming) so I use it in a Ubuntu virtual machine.

It’s a wonderful EDA though. I find the user interface much better than Eagle and of course it’s open source.


Marcus December 8, 2011 at 17:23

Yes, I worked only shortly with it. And it is not the performance monger. But bearable I think. Let’s see after seom designs.


John December 9, 2011 at 10:54

Hello there !
I’ve never been much of a Eagle user, but not having a simple distance tool plus the difficulties I had to create a single component was a no-go for me.
We use diptrace at work, which has a MacOS X support with the new version. As an electronic company, it has fulfilled its job nicely. You should give it a try !

Best regards,


Jeff Rose December 11, 2011 at 18:22

Thanks, this is just what I was looking for. I hope you forwarded this info on to the kicad devs so they can add this stuff to the OSX installer too.


WestfW December 13, 2011 at 17:47

So you don’t have the problem that I seem to have where the PCB editor doesn’t seem to detect mouse movements until the pointer goes outside the window? initially I thought it was just slow, but now I think it has something to do with not getting the right events through the window system…


Marcus December 13, 2011 at 18:05

No, my schematic editor only draws lines after I have placed the line end. Not very convenient, but workable. Do you use exactly the same version as I described?
I think there is much movement regarding that in KiCAD and it also depends on the libraries you are using for compilation.
Experimental! ;)


Fabio Varesano December 13, 2011 at 18:09

I think you should just try KiCAD on an Linux virtual machine.. many users found it too buggy to work with it under mac.. truth is that KiCAD currently lacks MacOS developers so it’s kind of buggy when used there.


Marcus December 13, 2011 at 18:22

Absolutely good idea. But it will not run KiCAD on Mac OS X. But after my experiences really the most simple way to go. Let’s hope that the KiCAD guys get some Mac support.


Steve Hoefer December 13, 2011 at 18:45

It’s a real shame this is such a hassle on OSX. Before reading this I tried installing it 3 times and never figured out the deal with the missing files.

The OSX version seems so broken that no one is using it, which means no one is interested improving it. If it would simply install correctly there would likely be people willing to improve it. As it is it’s almost pointless to even have an OSX version since it’s such a frustrating introduction to KiCAD.

In the meantime I run it in my Windows VM.


Evan Davey January 6, 2012 at 12:38

These instructions worked: – particularly the step where the libraries are checked out using bzr (which I installed using HomeBrew instead of macports).


Marcus January 6, 2012 at 12:48

Oh, a very nice other options to get the libraries – directly from the version control system (bazaar) – excellent, thanks for sharing the link!


Marcus January 8, 2012 at 11:26

I just wanted to share with you a nice idea how to setup a very lightweight virtual machine for KiCAD – if you think taht the MAC OS X port ist still a bit too experimental:


loopy January 29, 2012 at 23:07

i try to install KiCad around 100 times, this drives me crazy :D
i don’t understand xCode and all this stuff, but trying to get work it on OSx take me ages i guess :) :(



Rob Brown February 15, 2012 at 23:47

I don’t even get this far.

It reports “could not found” when clicking any of the 6 buttons or trying to open a demo file. All the program files have just been decompressed and move to “Applications”. The extra files described above are in place.

Any ideas pse..?


Martijn April 3, 2012 at 10:08

You should gives Marco’s version of KiCad on OSX a try. I think you will feel it much faster.

As for the libraries, yes, that problem still exists. People tend to use their own libraries, and nobody wants to force you to use library *X* or whatever. As for the docs, I think the idea is to split it up so you can get only the docs in your language.


Martijn April 3, 2012 at 10:43

And it would be much easier for you to try if I had not forgotten the link:


Ricky December 1, 2012 at 06:33

Hi Martin,

Is it possible to upload the Kicad 2012 zip file again?

Best wishes,


Andy in Tucson April 9, 2012 at 19:32

I tried to get KiCAD to work on OS X. I’ve submitted bug reports and offered to test it. But the developers are indifferent, if not outwardly hostile, to OS X (this is a common problem among open-source projects), and as such, don’t expect them to actually release a working version of their program on the platform.


Martijn April 9, 2012 at 23:21

The problem is not so much in KiCad, but in wxWidgets. The cocoa-port is not up to snuff compared to either linux or windows.

KiCad is very demanding of wx and as such many bugs appear. KiCad code is not easy to follow, wx code is even worse :-(

There is no hostility against OSX, but truth is that there are almost no OSX devs. Did you try the version I linked to above? It will still require you to install docs and part-libraries separately.


Andy in Tucson April 9, 2012 at 23:27

The problems with line drawing in schematic editing remain. Until that bug is fixed, the tool remains useless. Sorry, that’s how I see it.

Pete July 23, 2012 at 00:16

At first thanks for this summary on how to install KiCAD on MacOS, it was helpful for me with my Macbook Air (Mid 2012).

I had the same issue opening a schematic of the demo with the finder. It started the schematic editor, but it complained about something with an argument, so obviously it can’t open files that way. Opening the file from within the schematic editor was successful however, and I was able to connect a wire in the schematic.

Thanks Martijn for posting this link, the only other one I could find was which is very old. The 2012 version has a lot of improvements for what I saw in a short moment.

What I dislike is the way to pan trough the schematic, but I’ll probably find a better shortcut for the unpractical F4 to center the schematic to the pointer.

Thanks, and happy designing!


Andy October 28, 2012 at 07:43

Just installed the Oct2012 version of kicad from the mdx4 site and it works great. None of the slowness or graphic glitches mentioned here. I am running a 2012 MacBook Air and I going to settle in to a fairly complex design right out of the gate. If things so really bad or really well I’ll report back!


Marco/Mdx4 February 18, 2013 at 18:38

I thank Martijn for the adv/spam here.
I’ve just released another version and I need someone that tests the changes and leaves some feedbacks about issues, bugs or complains in the comments.

Thank you for your support.
The best way to get the last release is use the url:
or for ones that have the RSS:


Pete May 25, 2013 at 17:27

In the version of Eescheme for mac I have I can select a library from the dialog “Library” from the menu “Preferences”. I can also set alternative search path’s here.


Martijn December 3, 2012 at 10:22

Some people asked me to upload the zip-file of KiCad on OSX.
It’s up on the site and the work is not done by me, but some friendly Italian who likes “vintage” measuring equipment ;-)

Anyway, he just produced a new version here:



Andy in Tucson December 3, 2012 at 17:23

(Ah, notifications work!)
I’ve been working with the 13 October 2012 build and the schematic line-drawing issue has been fixed. And in general, it seems snappy on my Core 2 Duo iMac. So now I’m knee deep in creating my own libraries, mostly by starting with existing symbols and footprints and editing them and creating my own libraries.

Some of the open-source footprints have issues, mainly silkscreen drawing over pads.

Anyways, I retract my statement about “not ready for prime time,” at least in terms of the schematic show-stopper bug. Once my libraries have all of the parts I want to use in a design (a studio monitor controller), I’ll see how the tools work for real.


Westerley February 9, 2013 at 20:11

Andy, how did it go? I’m about to start a new project and am wondering if KiCad on the Mac is sufficiently usable, or if I should stick with my Windows version…



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